The spike in online commerce, the importance of experiences (and data to power them), and the need for organizations of all types to accelerate their digital transformation were themes that were front and center at last week’s Adobe Summit 2020. Presented as a series of video keynotes and live BlueJeans-based panels and breakout sessions, this year’s virtual event was missing the glitz and fun of a regular Adobe Summit but still had more than a few business and product nuggets for customers and industry watchers alike — especially around the company’s big bet on data and content in the cloud and efforts to amp up the role of its Sensei AI engine through new “intelligent services.”

From the opening session to one-on-ones, we heard how Adobe aims to rally its community around both some old challenges (real-time profiles and bridging the worlds of the CIO and CMO) and new ones such as better wiring up and orchestrating customer journeys. And there was plenty about the role of Experience League — which we think is a bit of a secret weapon — and the latest on the Open Data Initiative (ODI) but notably less on how the Adobe Exchange app marketplace will play a role (although we were told there is news coming on that front).

So as always, despite the online format, Summit was a happening of sorts that brought together creatives and techies around how to build and deliver better customer experiences (and what these joint missions look like). But ultimately this Summit was about data, data, and more data, at least for starters. Here’s our take on how this strategy was presented — and how it may play out.

Adobe Reminds Everyone It’s A Data Company . . .

It’s still early days for the Adobe Experience Platform (AEP), which has been generally available since mid-2019, but Adobe is doubling down on its enterprise data platform. Per Forrester’s vision for enterprise marketing technologycustomer data management and identity resolution are requisite foundational elements of your marketing and digital experience ecosystem, and Adobe is investing accordingly. A core tenet of AEP is the real-time customer profile, which Adobe constructs and enriches for activation via Adobe Experience Cloud platform components, application services, and product clouds. Adobe is further raising its game by strengthening its technology infrastructure for AEP to more broadly appeal to the techies. There’s plenty of work to be done before CIOs consider Adobe a top data management player, but it is certainly making progress among enterprise marketing software suite rivals.

For brands to become customer-obsessed, it’s also critical to align martech investments with business technology components that address the broader customer experience ecosystem. Leveraging its ODI with Microsoft, SAP, and others, Adobe expects to incorporate more than 50 data sources by Q3 of 2020. It is also integrating AEP with customer service solutions from the likes of ServiceNow and Genesys, plus customer feedback management via Medallia.

. . . With More Goodies For Commerce And Midmarket Customers, As Well . . .

For business marketers, Adobe’s data strategy, combined with the capabilities in lead management, account-level data, and multichannel marketing that Marketo brings to the table, supports a full-picture view of the customer. This includes behavioral and ad data and sales outcomes through direct and online channels — as Adobe continues to advance integration efforts with its Magento eCommerce solution and its connections to Microsoft Dynamics for customer relationship management. The company also announced two new intelligent services built on Sensei — Customer AI and Attribution AI — and will add three more, including one targeting the impact of content assets in commerce/merchandising scenarios (an area we are studying in some upcoming research).

Adobe’s commitment to the midmarket (small/medium enterprises) was also on display in some new packaging and pricing for both the Marketo and Magento product lines — the heart and soul for the commercial-markets portfolio. This should make it easier for smaller B2B enterprises that have been lagging in developing a digital engagement strategy to jump-start their digital engagement technology platform, which is becoming a priority in a world that is quickly seeing direct/in-person sales and marketing touchpoints disrupted by COVID-19 concerns.

. . . While Laying The Foundation For Moments-Based Marketing

And what of that most elusive of martech capabilities, moments-based marketing? Adobe continues to focus on data ingestion and activation “at the edge,” where it manages interactions and decisions close to customer touchpoints. But it is also investing in a central Journey Orchestration solution that centralizes real-time customer journey mapping. And to better support activation in channels that address known customers, it offers the Adobe Real-Time Customer Data Platform (RTCDP), which extracts real-time customer profiles and makes them available for use in marketing apps — from Adobe and other vendors. Adobe RTCDP provides an enterprise customer data platform (CDP) to complement Audience Manager’s data management platform capabilities, and it’s an interesting step forward compared to other CDP offerings.

To support current Adobe Campaign customers, Adobe is offering access to AEP’s Real-Time Customer Profile and Sensei AI functionality via web services, providing dockers for leveraging Adobe Campaign via multiple cloud infrastructures and positioning Adobe Campaign and Journey Orchestration as complementary solutions for cross-channel campaign management and real-time interaction management, respectively. These parallel activities should help Adobe Campaign customers leverage their investments as they contemplate an eventual switchover to AEP.

What it means for Forrester marketing clients: It’s clear that AEP represents a major ongoing investment and area of emphasis for Adobe. It’s a new approach for ingesting, managing, and distributing customer data to application services, Adobe’s core products, and third-party solutions. It’s inevitable that every Adobe client will be impacted by AEP and its downstream capabilities. Forrester strongly recommends that all Adobe clients begin familiarizing themselves with AEP immediately so that they are ready to adopt, and rationalize, the right martech and Adobe investments.

What it means for Forrester eBusiness and tech clients: In the digital experience platform (DXP) realm, commerce use cases have become both the driver and the payoff. With COVID-19 pushing more “traditional” firms to online commerce, Adobe offers an attractive on-ramp, especially where the company already has a foothold with creatives. For more digitally advanced firms looking to drive better efficiency (and conversions), they should dig in to see how ODI can boost interoperability between experience and operational systems of record and start evaluating Adobe’s new Sensei-based services as a difference maker. And now that Adobe Experience Manager is available as a true multitenant offering . . . all signs are pointing to Magento being next.